If you spend most of your working day seated, a good chair isn’t a luxury: it’s essential. An unsuitable chair isn’t just uncomfortable. It can actively damage your health by encouraging poor posture.
As long-term sufferers of back pain and RSI, we’ve got the surgery scars to prove it. Let’s get this bit out of the way first: good chairs are expensive, and going for super-cheap for all-day use is a false economy.
Yet many people will happily drop a couple of grand on a sofa but baulk at spending a fraction of that on a chair, even though your buttocks spend more time in the office than they do in the living room.
What do you get for your money? Back support is crucial, as is a seat that’s wide enough and long enough for adequate support. Gas suspension takes the effort out of adjustment, and many chairs offer variable resistance so you can make them stiffer for computer work and recline when you’re reading. Avoid arms unless they’re adjustable, as that can lead to discomfort when typing, and test drive any chair before you buy it: we’re all different, and what feels fantastic to us may be much less fun for you.
Our pick of the top office chairs to buy today
1. Herman Miller Mirra 2
The best money we’ve ever spent on anything, ever
RRP: £799 | Seat height: 40-52cm | Seat depth: 41cm | Height adjustable: yes | Lumbar support: yes | Tilt lock: yes
Eght hundred quid may sound like a lot for a chair, but you can’t even get a MacBook Air for that kind of money - and unlike the Mac, the Mirra will still be useful a decade from now. We bought one in 2004 on the recommendation of a back surgeon, and it’s genuinely the best investment we’ve ever made: it enabled us to get back to work much earlier than expected post-surgery, and it’s kept back problems at bay ever since. It’s rock solid - two generations of dogs and two children have tried and failed to destroy it, and the only sign of wear from more than a decade is a slight bagginess to the armrest covers - and almost infinitely adjustable. It’s heavy, though, so we’d recommend floor protection.
2. IKEA Flintan
Proof that you don’t need big money for a decent office chair
RRP: £49 | Seat height: 47-60cm | Seat depth: 48cm | Height adjustable: Yes | Lumbar support: yes | Tilt lock: yes
Cheap chairs tend to be pretty nasty, but IKEA’s Flintan is as comfortable as it is pretty - although the seat base is on the small side, so it’s definitely one to test before you buy. There’s built-in lumbar support and a tilt mechanism that adjusts the resistance to suit your weight and movement, and the mesh back keeps things cool on warmer days. You’re not getting Herman Miller design or build quality here, of course, but the Flintan is perfectly adequate for occasional use: it’s a good one to consider if you’re an occasional homeworker. For daily full-time work we’d prefer something a little more supportive and sturdy, but at £49 the Flintan feels like a bargain.
3. Herman Miller Aeron
If money’s no object, this is the best of the best
RRP: £899 | Seat height: 36-50cm | Seat depth: 40-47cm depending on model | Height adjustable: yes | Lumbar support: yes | Tilt lock: yes
The Aeron is an icon, beloved of the kinds of internet businesses that spent all their startup cash on expensive office chairs and went bust in spectacular fashion. But it’s much more solid than those sites’ business models, and if you can afford it - it’s £899 for a basic one rising to well over £1,100 for aluminium finished ones - it may well be the best place you’ll ever put your buttocks. It comes in three sizes suitable for people up to 5’2”, 6’0” and more than 6 feet respectively, and it’s so adjustable it feels more like an exoskeleton than a chair. It’s incredibly heavy at 20kg but it’s designed for 24/7 use by people up to 150kg - that’s 23 stone. It’s a masterpiece.
4. House by John Lewis Hinton Chair
When your style ideas exceed your budget, John Lewis can help
RRP: £115 | Seat height: 45-55cm | Seat depth: not stated | Height adjustable: yes | Lumbar support: no | Tilt lock: no
If you fancy something stylish but can’t or won’t drop a month’s wages on a comfy chair, John Lewis has just the chair for you: the Hinton is good looking, especially in red, and the combination of gas height adjustment, armrests that flip out of the way and a mesh back make it a great office all-rounder. There’s no resistance mechanism for reclining - the back of the Hinton is fixed - but the seat is well padded and reasonably sized and it looks as good as it feels. It isn’t enormous like some of the pricier chairs you can buy, so it’s particularly well suited for smaller spaces and looks as happy in a kid’s room as it does in an open plan office.
5. Humanscale Diffrient World Office Chair
No, that’s not a typo: this comes from a design legend with an unusual name
RRP: £425 | Seat height: 41-53cm | Seat depth: not stated | Height adjustable: yes | Lumbar support: yes | Tilt lock: yes
Niels Diffrient was the Steve Jobs of ergonomic chairs, and his Freedom and Liberty chairs are design classics. But while they’re truly excellent chairs that have become modern works of art, they aren’t as eye-catching as this Diffrient office chair design: in white it’s as stunning as anything Apple’s ever made. There’s science behind the style too, with all-mesh seating for comfort and coolness, an exceptionally clever reclining mechanism and integrated lumbar support that doesn’t require any adjustment. It’s an astonishing design and comes with a fifteen year guarantee. How’s that for confidence? It’s the kind of chair you don’t know whether to sit in or look at, and if you’re the kind of person who lives in an achingly minimalist space you’ll love it.
6. Boss Design App Office Chair
It isn’t particularly pretty, but it’s pretty good
RRP: £399 | Seat height: 44-57cm | Seat depth: 40-46cm | Height adjustable: yes | Lumbar support: yes | Tilt lock: yes
If you spend any time in corporate environments or media companies you’ve probably seen or sat on one of these: Boss’s chair is a solid choice for offices and comes in a huge range of colours to match any brand’s colour scheme. It’s notable for its exceptionally comfortable foam-filled seat base, and the chair boasts adjustable arm rests, a tilt lock back rest, lumbar support and a waterfall-shaped seat front to keep your thighs happier. It’s UK-made, well screwed together and designed to be used 24 hours a day. It’s not the sort of chair anybody’s going to get particularly excited about but its form follows function, and that’s what good design is all about.
7. Humanscale Freedom Office Chair with headrest
Fancy having a museum piece in your home office? This is a stone cold classic
RRP: £999 | Seat height: 40-53cm | Seat size: 41-47cm | Height adjustable: yes | Lumbar support: yes | Tilt lock: yes
The Freedom chair can genuinely be called a work of art: it’s been exhibited in the New York museum of modern art and hailed worldwide as a design classic. It’s hardly cheap, but it’ll still set you back less than a MacBook Pro and it’ll last a whole lot longer: buy it from John Lewis and it’s guaranteed for fifteen years. We’re into jargon territory here: there’s weight-sensitive reclining, synchronously adjustable armrests and a dynamically positioned headrest; in plain English it adjusts to your shape and movements to keep you perfectly comfortable without requiring you to mess around with tension adjusters or levers or the other bits and bobs you find on other ergonomic chairs.
8. Humanscale Liberty Office Chair
The classic chair you can completely customise - but it pays to shop around
RRP: £390 | Seat height: 40-53cm | Seat size: 42-47.5cm | Height adjustable: yes | Lumbar support: yes | Tilt lock: yes
Another design classic, another 15-year John Lewis guarantee - although you might want to shop around for this one, as the Liberty is available in a wide range of colours from other retailers. You can configure the Liberty with or without arms, upgrade to a gel seat, specify hard floor castors instead of the default carpet ones and choose upholstery and back colours, and while most options cost money even a fully tricked-out Liberty can be found for less than the RRP. It’s a superb, stylish and very supportive chair, and once again it’s the work of legendary designer Niels Diffrient - so that means intelligent, self-adjusting comfort without the need to fiddle with anything.
9. Herman Miller SAYL Office Chair
Probably the only chair that takes its inspiration from suspension bridges
RRP: £615 | Seat height: 38-48cm | Seat depth: 40-45cm | Height adjustable: yes | Lumbar support: yes | Tilt lock: yes
Herman Miller hasn’t rested on its Aeron-shaped office chair laurels: its SAYL chair looks like nothing on Earth, especially if you opt for a red or green one, and it boasts some really clever engineering. The frameless back is designed like a suspension bridge, and while it looks like it can’t possibly support you it turns out to be strong, supportive and very flexible. The mesh of the back is stronger in some parts than others to encourage correct posture, and it’s as happy reclining as it is keeping you upright. Like other HM office chairs John Lewis offers a 12 year guarantee on this one, and we’d be surprised if you need to take advantage of it. These things are built to last.
10. Varier Balans
The Axl Rose of office chairs is for your na-na-na-na-na-na-na knees!
RRP: £279 | Seat height: 51cm | Seat size: not stated | Height adjustable: no | Lumbar support: no | Tilt lock: no
Originally designed back in 1979 by Norwegian designer Peter Opsvik, the Balans 'office chair' has found new fans among sedentary laptop users who fear that sitting on their backside might not be the best thing for their health. Instead of a traditional chair, they kneel instead - and with the Balans, that isn’t the spectacularly uncomfortable experience you might expect. The seat gently tips your pelvis forward and encourages you to keep your spine in the right shape, it helps strengthen your core muscles and promises to improve circulation too. There are cheaper clones out there but the Balans is the original and best, and while it takes a while to get used to its fans are evangelical about it.